3-time national champ St. Mary’s tags No. 20 Lopes with 88-15 loss Saturday
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
Showing what has made them the gold standard for championship-level play in D1A Rugby the past decade, No. 3 St. Mary’s College of California dampened the playoff hopes of the Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby team with an 88-15 victory Saturday afternoon at the GCU Practice Soccer Field on the GCU campus. The loss is the Lopes’ (3-2 overall, 3-1 California Conference) first in league play, and may knock the Lopes out of their No. 20 ranking in the latest D1A Rugby Poll. The win effectively clinches the regular season conference title for the Gaels, and keeps them in line to stay no worse than in the D1A Rugby Top 3 next week.
“What more can you say about St. Mary’s?” said Lopes’ Head Coach Cam Wyper. “They’re the pinnacle of college rugby. However, we can still take some positives out of it. We were pretty solid in defense in the first half, and we kept things pretty close for a while. Unfortunately, the score just got away from us at the end.”
The Lopes held their own for much of the 40-minute first half-even pulling to within a four-point deficit at 7-3 following a penalty kick.
“We had good line speed, and we made good tackles – especially in that first half,” said Wyper. “You can’t let a team like that have too much possession, though, which eventually is what we did.”
Once the Gaels (8-0 overall, 5-0 California Conference) started to tip the scales in time of possession, the Lopes wore down, and the Gaels ran away in the final 10 minutes of first half to take a 42-10 edge into halftime, and put the match out of reach. GCU’s Ronnie Sallee scored the first of his two tries in the match midway through the first half, and now has a team-leading 7 for the season.
Looking at the final scoreboard was discouraging to Wyper for a couple of reasons.
“If we’d kept that a bit closer, D1A probably would’ve shown us a little bit of love in the rankings, but it got away from us,” Wyper said. “The score also didn’t reflect the game. We were in it for most of the first half, and a little bit into the second. It’s a tough one to take, but we just try to take the positives out of it toward next week.” The Lopes have three matches left to help rebuild their argument for a playoff berth, since the D1A Rugby rankings have a direct effect on who’s chosen for the Round of 16. The Lopes have one more ranked team left on their schedule – the March 30 season finale on the road at No. 12 Central Washington –but have to focus on the getting the victory in next week’s home finale first. The Lopes will host San Diego State University (1-4 overall, 1-2 California Conference) next Saturday, March 9 at the GCU Practice Soccer Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 pm for the ‘A’ sides (the ‘B’ sides from both teams will play an 11 am matchup at the same field), and admission is FREE.